I no longer call you servants,
(cf. John 15:15)
On November 18, 2020, God, the Lord of life, called our dear Confrere
Prof. Dr. P. Stephan Haering OSB
utterly unexpectedly to himself in his heavenly kingdom.
The deceased was in the 62nd year of his life, in the 42nd year of his profession and in the 37th of his priesthood.
Bernhard Haering was born on September 15, 1959, the fourth son of the merchant Josef Haering and his wife Martha, née Gansl, into a happy family in Grafenau. But soon a painful shadow fell on this happiness. The father died when Bernhard was just one year old. Now the worry about the family and the burden of the big business rested on the shoulders of the mother, a strong woman of deep faith. The mother created a family atmosphere in which two religious vocations were nurtured.
In 1969 Bernhard, like his brothers Georg, Josef and Anton before him, joined the St.-Michaels-Gymnasium and boarding school of the Benedictines in Metten. In 1978 he entered the monastery as a novice. In his application for admission to abbot to Emmeram: “Stronger than the general urge for a priestly vocation is the desire to become a member of a Benedictine community. … There remains the hope to a way of life whose main contents are prayer and work, and which is worth living because this way of life points beyond physical death.” At his clothing, Bernhard received the holy archmartyr Stephanus as monastic patron saint.
After his temporary profession he began his studies of philosophy and theology at the Paris-Lodron-University in Salzburg, which he completed with a doctorate in canon law. On September 24, 1983, he made perpetual profession. He was ordained a priest on July 14, 1984 by the diocesan bishop of Regensburg, Manfred Müller. Afterwards Father Stephan worked for a short time as a house master in the boarding school of the Metten monastery school, before moving on to further studies at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich. There he continued his canonical training, and also received an MA in History.
Since canon law was the great passion of his life, the community – albeit with a very heavy heart – freed him for academia. Father Stephan would have filled well any in office in the monastery. After sojourns in Washington and Rome he qualified for a professorship in Munich in 1996 and began to teach Canon Law at the Julius-Maximilian University of Würzburg. In 2001 he was appointed to the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, where he worked until his death.
For Father Stephan, the law was never in contrast to Christian charity, but rather a protection for the weaker and an expression of the “minimum of love” that is owed to all people.
To work with young people always gave him a lot of joy, and education was his heart’s desire. His students found him to be a true “Doktorvater” as the doctoral supervisors are called in German, as he cared about his students in a very fatherly manner.
Father Stephan always regarded canon law as an academic as well as a pastoral mission. He attached great importance to this. When relating with people he was very affectionate, friendly, empathic, always benevolent and obliging in tone, but he could also appear energetically and without any fear of anybody. He would take the floor when injustice was done or someone claimed rights for himself that were not his due, regardless of rank or position. What he said was so thoroughly thought through that there was generally no opposition.
In his academic work as a professor of canon law at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich he focused on administrative law, pastoral and sacramental law and ecclesiastical legal history. In addition, he held numerous outstanding responsibilities in church and academia: He was a judge at the Munich Consistorial and Metropolitan Court, Judge at the Ecclesiastical Labour Court in Bonn, advisor to the Faith Commission of the German Bishops’ Conference, Member of the Working Group on Canon Law of the German Bishops’ Conference and Managing Editor and Editor-in-Chief of the journal “Archiv für katholisches Kirchenrecht”. As co-editor of the “Handbook of Catholic Canon Law” he shared responsibility for one of the most important commentaries on the Code of Canon Law. For almost twenty years he belonged to the National Committee of Catholics in Bavaria as an appointed member. He was a member of the advisory board of the Görres Society and dean of the historical section of the Bavarian Benedictine Academy. His (incomplete) bibliography lists 858 items.
Father Stephan was one of the most renowned canonists in Germany and also worked internationally. In 2005 Pope Benedict XVI appointed him to the staff of the Special Secretariate for the 11th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. He was a sought-after advisor in all legal matters for German religious congregations, especially for the Benedictines and the abbeys of the Bavarian Benedictine Congregation. He was a member of that Congregation’s praesidium or council, and had been expected to join one of its meetings at Scheyern on the day of his death.
Among the community of Metten, Father Stephan was a very popular confrere, not only because of his knowledge, but also because of his courteous kindness, his fine sense of humor and his level-headed judgement. He had been a member of the Seniorate for several periods and was repeatedly sent as community delegate to the General Chapters. All tasks and offices assigned to him he fulfilled masterfully and with a great sense of responsibility.
Since 1994 he was the main editor of the company magazine “Alt und Jung Metten”, which is published twice a year with a print run of 3100 copies and which unmistakably bore his signature. He was the editor of two commemorative publications of the abbey, for the 80th birthday celebration of Augustinus Cardinal Mayer OSB in 1991, and for the 1250 year jubilee of the abbey in 2016.
Because of his teaching activities in Munich, Father Stephan spent almost twenty years at the Venio Benedictine abbey of nuns where he found a second home. The nuns provided him with a fruitful environment for his work and monastic life. The Sisters deserve great thanks for having accepted him into their midst. They allowed him to celebrate the Eucharist with them, to proclaim the Good News and be their pastor.
Father Stephan did not spare himself. He was a gift to us, a person who made friendships and was very faithful to it. He not only leaves behind an immeasurable gap in the academic field; his kindness and sensitivity, his friendly and human manner will be missed by many. His untimely death has affected us deeply.
We thank our dear confrere for the testimony of his life and ask him to watch over his dear Metten from above, and to be an intercessor with the Father of Mercy.
In 2017, Father Stephan concluded a sermon on the feast of Our Lady of Snows in Aufhausen with the words: “Jesus Christ says of himself that he is the way, the truth and life (John 14:6). Therein lies a promise and at the same time a serious claim, which we have to face again and again. … Being a Christian is a demanding path that totally challenges us. But it is a path of life and joy, not of death and doom; it is a path of salvation that leads to final fulfillment. For in Jesus Christ we meet the incomprehensible and abundantly merciful God. And where God is, there is future!”
On 23 November 2020, we buried our dear confrere under Corona conditions.
We ask you to pray for Fr. Stephan, and promise to do the same for you.
Abbot and community of Metten Abbey
Metten, November 2020